The disappearance of the Roanoke colony long remained one of the oldest unsolved mysteries in the United States. It all began back in 1587, when Sir Walter Raleigh financed the attempts of John White to establish a British colony on Roanoke Island, just off the coast of North Carolina. They landed that July and established themselves rather quickly. Everything seemed to be going well for the thriving colony of 115 people. In fact, John White’s daughter, Eleanor Dare, gave birth to a daughter while in Roanoke. Virginia Dare became the first English child born in the Americas.
White sailed back to England to gather fresh supplies, but the Anglo-Spanish War delayed his return. After being away from his family for three years, White finally returned to Roanoke in 1590, but he arrived to find the entire colony had simply vanished. They left nothing behind except the word “Croatoan” carved into a post and “Cro” etched into a tree. But what does "Croatoan" mean and where could the colony have gone?
In 2020, amateur archaeologist Scott Dawson, a native of Hatteras Island, just south of Roanoke, released a book, The Lost Colony and Hatteras Island, in which he provides evidence from researchers that the colonists "were never lost" and "the mystery is over," as he told The Virginian-Pilot. The colonists, Dawson said, moved to Hatteras Island and assimilated into the Native American tribe, the Croatoans, who already lived there. Scientists who studied the area, he said, uncovered a mix of English and Native American artifacts, proving that the two communities lived together.
Even if the mystery is truly solved, it's still interesting to speculate on what people theorized over the years.
Local Native Tribes Absorbed The Colonists As Friends Or SlavesPhoto: Anonymous / Wikimedia Commons via National Archives and Records Administration
The Colonists Fell Victim To Cannibalism Or Practiced It ThemselvesPhoto: John White / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Edgar Allan Poe Had A Mysterious Connection to The Word 'Croatoan'Photo: Edwin H. Manchester/C.T. Tatman / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
'Croatoan' Appears At The Site Of Many Other Mysterious DisappearancesPhoto: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
The Colonists Were Massacred By Chief PowhatanPhoto: William Hole / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
An Infectious Disease Drove The Colonists Mad